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Find a Fiscal Sponsor that Fits

You’ve got a brilliant idea for a nonprofit. You’ve done your research, gathered your team, and even have a lead on some funding. Someone suggests fiscal sponsorship as a smart way to start your project. But what is that? And how do you find a good fiscal sponsor?

What is Fiscal Sponsorship?

Put most broadly, fiscal sponsorship is the term applied when a nonprofit organization agrees to assume legal and financial oversight for a charitable activity or project that does not have its own legal nonprofit (501(c)3) status. There are different models for fiscal sponsorship, each with its own characteristics and legal structures. The models, and some myth-busting explanations, are explained in detail by the National Network of Fiscal Sponsors. The article “Fiscal Sponsorship: A 360 Degree Perspective” also offers a good overview of fiscal sponsorship as well as evolving trends in the field.

There are many benefits to fiscal sponsorship. While the application process with the IRS has become much easier, setting up a nonprofit still requires federal and state applications and extensive annual reporting. Rather than setting up your own organization and operating systems, fiscal sponsorship can give you access to a team of dedicated professionals who handle your accounting, grants management, and human resources needs.

Not only does this make your life easier and enable you to focus on your mission, many funders view fiscal sponsorship as a way to help minimize risk, especially with small or start-up ventures. And the leaders of many sponsored projects find that fiscal sponsorship is less expensive than operating as an independent organization.

This chart from attorney Greg Colvin offers a quick look at the basic differences between forming an independent 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation and fiscal sponsorship. If you decide that fiscal sponsorship is the way you’d like to go, you’ll need to take the time to find an organization that is both reputable, and the right fit for you!

#1 Identify Your Prospects

Many organizations provide fiscal sponsorship. Some are “dedicated” fiscal sponsors, meaning sponsorship is at the core of their mission. Others might offer fiscal sponsorship on a more informal and limited basis — a way to help out a friend or a related program.

The San Francisco Study Center hosts an online directory of fiscal sponsors across the country. Word of mouth is also a good way to find fiscal sponsors in your area: ask friends or staff members at organizations that are likely to work with fiscal sponsors, including:

  • Your local community foundation
  • Foundations serving your area
  • A nonprofit management support organization
  • The local or regional association of foundations that encompasses your area
  • Local attorneys, or the tax-exempt division of the bar association
  • Accountants, fundraisers, consultants and others who serve the nonprofit sector

#2 Make the Right Match

Securing fiscal sponsorship is a two-way street: you’ll need to put your best foot forward through what can be a rigorous selection process. But you should also be selective about choosing your fiscal sponsor. This will be your organizational home, so it’s important to find a good match, a place where you’ll be comfortable, and where you’ll have access to the services and support you need.

Before applying, be sure to ask some questions about a prospective sponsor and what you can expect from the relationship.

Can they do it right? The organization should be able to manage your project funds and activities effectively, separate from their core operations or other projects.

  • Is there good mission fit? Is their view of the world compatible with the mission of your project?
  • Is their organization an appropriate sponsor for the size and scale of your project?
  • Do they have a policy and safeguards in place to ensure that project funds will not be used for their own purposes (beyond the agreed-upon administrative fees)?
  • Do they have an accounting system robust enough to account separately for your project funds and generate sufficiently detailed financial reports?

Is the organization solid? You’ll want to check out the fiscal sponsor itself to make sure it’s healthy and stable. Remember, the fiscal sponsor will be managing your project’s funds.

  • Do they have a good reputation? Your credibility is only as good as your fiscal sponsor’s.
  • Are they in good standing with the IRS and state agencies?
  • Do they have clean annual financial audits?
  • Do they have adequate reserves to sustain them into the future?
  • Do they have enough insurance and adequate policies in place to manage risk?

What services do they offer? Fiscal sponsors vary widely in what they provide and how they charge.

  • Do you know what services you’ll receive? Some provide mainly accounting and administrative services, while others also offer advice and counsel to help projects grow and develop. Grant writing or even staffing can be a part of a sponsorship program.
  • Are they clear about how much they charge, and for what? Some provide a package of services for a percentage-based fee or set charge; others charge different fees for different services.

Put it in writing with a formal sponsorship agreement Many a project leader has gotten into trouble because the agreements were unclear or the fiscal sponsor did not want to end a relationship.

  • Will there be a written agreement that covers all these things – the services, fees, expectations, policies, and procedures?
  • What would happen if or when you want to leave the fiscal sponsor? What is the process and are there provisions for who will own the project assets in the case of a separation?

See the National Network of Fiscal Sponsors Guidelines for a more thorough checklist of best practices for the two most common kinds of fiscal sponsorship. The list can help you evaluate a prospective fiscal sponsor and serve as a guide to entering into a solid relationship.

Done well, fiscal sponsorship is an excellent alternative to nonprofit incorporation and a great way to let the brilliance of your good work shine quickly and easily.

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  • Kate, Digital Communications Manager, Candid says:

    May 8, 2024 12:39 pm

    Candid does not provide fiscal sponsorship, nor can we suggest potential sponsors. However, we do have resources to help you on your search. Head to our Knowledge Base for information, articles, and resources to help you find one.

  • Rimmy Francis Amakye says:

    May 8, 2024 12:17 pm

    I am writing on behalf of Reproductive Advocate Health Education Ghana, an organization dedicated to promoting reproductive health education and advocacy in Ghana. Our organization is in need of fiscal sponsorship to support our important work in the community.

    Fiscal sponsorship is a common practice where a nonprofit organization provides financial and administrative support to another group that does not have tax-exempt status. This arrangement allows the sponsored organization to receive tax-deductible donations and grants through the fiscal sponsor, who manages the funds on their behalf.

    By partnering with a fiscal sponsor, Reproductive Advocate Health Education Ghana can access resources such as grant funding, donor contributions, and administrative support without having to establish its own separate nonprofit status. This can help our organization focus on our mission of advancing reproductive health education and advocacy initiatives in Ghana without being burdened by the complexities of nonprofit management.

    We believe that with the support of a fiscal sponsor, we can expand our reach, increase our impact, and better serve the needs of our community. We are seeking a reputable fiscal sponsor who shares our commitment to reproductive health education and advocacy to help us achieve our goals.

    Thank you for considering our request for fiscal sponsorship. We look forward to the opportunity to partner with an organization that values our mission and is willing to support our efforts to improve reproductive health outcomes in Ghana.

    Sincerely,
    Rimmy

    Reproductive Advocate Health Education Ghana

  • Dieugo says:

    February 5, 2024 2:42 pm

    Plateau Central , Haiti national road #3
    “Reconstruction project and let's fight for famine”.

    5/2/2024

    Haiti remains one of the countries in the world most vulnerable to natural hazards, mainly hurricanes, floods and earthquakes. 14 years after the earthquake of January 12, 2010, there are people unable to rebuild their homes and feed their children. We are launching this appeal with all those who want to help, organizations to join us so that we can fight in this extreme poverty.

  • Moses Ibwala says:

    November 30, 2023 1:43 am

    Acopet Services Rural Development Initiative is a Community Based Development Organization , voluntarily working with rural 700 women and youth in Teso North Eastern Uganda by promoting the use of solar photovoltaic (PV) instead of diesel-based irrigation water pumping in farmlands. The adoption of solar PV technology for water pumping in agriculture to avoid negative impact on air pollution and dependence on fossil fuels which are imported and rain fed agriculture which is not reliable and has exposed rural poor into hunger and acute poverty, we are looking for a fiscal sponsor to help us in our climate change and food security project , the purpose of this to request Candid's to connect us any potential fiscal sponsor

    Thank You
    Moses Ibwala
    ED ASRDI

  • Evangelist Obi Innocent says:

    April 28, 2023 11:44 pm

    Our halfway-house programs provides basic needs for former prisoners while they are in recovery and restoration. This services includes shelter, feeding, clothing, training and acquisition of functional skills. These however is undoubtedly more humane than returning them from Prisons to the communities without any thought of their abilities to locate a job or a place to live.

    Presently, we are admitting residents (ex-offenders) for our 2023 training batch, with estimated numbers of over 50 ex-offenders/community recidivists. Averagely this year halfway-house training batch is estimated to cost $10,000 which includes admission, shelter, feeding, clothing's, training and acquisition of functional skills. In reality however, the trainees are also empowered after they have successfully completed the training process.

    This is why we are seeking support and partnership from well-meaning individuals and organisations within and outside Nigeria.
    Please we would be happy to get your positive response on this. Obviously caring for former prisoners will help to improve their lives because release inmate prisoners faces adaptation issues that makes majority of them to relapse to crimes.

    Thanks for the opportunity.

    Global Prion Outreach Int'l, Warri , Delta State Nigeria.

  • Kate, Digital Communications Manager, Candid says:

    October 20, 2022 12:17 pm

    We don’t offer grants. But we do have resources to help you find grants. Check out our Knowledge Base for articles on the topic.

  • BENJAMIN KOJO ASIEDU says:

    October 17, 2022 11:28 pm

    I am Benjamin Kojo Asiedu from Ghana and founder of Yaweh Save Life Foundation Ghana an NGO providing humanitarian support to the poor community, children, disability persons and elderly persons in the deprived communities of Ghana in areas of Education,WASH services, Health and Training and will like to partner to improve the livelihood of these vulnerable in the poor villages in Ghana.
    Hope this request will considered.
    Thank you

  • Kate, Digital Communications Manager, Candid says:

    September 28, 2022 3:16 pm

    Hi Michael, we don't provide fiscal sponsorship. But, you can head to our Knowledge Base article to learn more about how to find one.

  • MICHAEL ANGURIA says:

    September 27, 2022 2:45 pm

    Dear great friends.
    Kindly get SAF-TESO a Canadian Fiscal Sponsor or in USA.

    We had applied for funding from Amelia and Lino Saputo Foundation in Canada and they denied to review the proposal because SAF-TESO does not have the CRA.
    Kindly help to get SAF-TESO a fiscal sponsor.
    I am available for whatsapp on +256781242684.
    God bless
    Michael Anguria